Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly

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Ten Days in a Madhouse by Nellie Bly
Chrissie and Beckie
19th and 20th century asylums
• Mental illness was a hidden disease which many people didn’t acknowledge
until it became unmanageably bad. If the patient was rich then they would go
to sanitarium to receive treatment but tell people they were going because
they were bored and wanted rest.
• There were few treatments available for mental illnesses. One called shock
therapy, involved the use of drugs or electricity to treat severe mental
disorders by inducing coma or convulsions. The therapeutic benefit of the
drug shock therapies seemed to be greatest with schizophrenics.
• Mental illness was seen as a curse and only 23% of people who suffered from
these illnesses voluntarily entered care homes as little treatment was
available and it was seen as embarrassing.
• Conditions in state mental institutions deteriorated as a result of depressionera financial hardships and the resource and personnel demands of the war.
Decaying physicial plants and extreme overcrowding were common.
• Mental Health Act 1946 was introduced. It provided funding for research into
causes, prevention and treatment of mental illness. It also led to
establishment in 1949 of the National Institute of Mental Health and provided
for Federal investigation of mental hospitals. Investigators found apathy,
neglect, and custodial care.
Stunt Journalism
• Stunt Journalism involves the writer putting themselves covertly into the
situation/event so they can write a truthful expose on this.
• Also known as immersion journalism.
• An advantage is that this allows the writer to go internally into an
external event and break away from the limited objectivity of traditional
• However, it would be difficult to remain completely unbias if you have
experienced the situation personally and critics often say that as they are
pretending to fit in, it isn’t a truly accurate account.
Recasting Task
Imagine you are from a mental health charity giving a speech to persuade
the government to put more funding into mental asylums in order to
improve the conditions. Use the extract from: ‘Miss Scott was called to the
door then…’ (page 4) to ‘I was shaking with more than fear.’ (page 6)
You should adapt the source material using your own words as far as
possible. You spoken text should be approximately 300-400 words in length.
In your adaptation you should:
• Use language appropriately to address purpose and audience
• Write accurately and coherently, applying relevant ideas and concepts.
The piece
• Sounds almost prose like.
• Plain sounds created through descriptive nature rather than expressive
• Empathy shown through repetition of ‘unfortunates’ as she understands
the experience now but still calls then ‘creature’ showing she is not
completely comfortable.
• Fairly formal language.
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